“I have been everywhere for help and have found none. Now I have come to the church. If you can’t help me, I don’t know what I’ll do.” This was the plea uttered by the intoxicated man as he stood in the church office, his clothes wrinkled, his hair disheveled, his face revealing deep distress. The church did help him, and arranged to reunite him with his family. But too often the churches have shown a judgmental or condemning attitude and have closed their doors in the alcoholic’s face, pretending his problem was none of their business.

The American Medical Association has defined alcoholism as a disease, and no one who encounters a person with an advanced case of alcoholism can have any doubt that the person is sick—physically, psychologically, spiritually, socially, domestically. The Church has believed, since the time of the apostles, that Jesus came to make men whole. Certainly the alcoholic is in desperate need of that wholeness.

A simple working definition of an alcoholic is: a person who is dependent upon alcohol. Or to put it another way, he is a person who has lost control of his will in the matter of drinking. A non-alcoholic can choose not to drink; but for the alcoholic, it is not at all that easy.

Today we have an estimated 6½ million alcoholics in the United States, and alcoholism is one of the nation’s major health problems. I do not see how any church can any longer ignore it. It is high time that we look upon the alcoholic not as a hopeless problem but as a human being who is ill and treatable. He is not necessarily a moral delinquent.

When a man or woman who has failed in some other way turns to the church, usually that person is received with Christian love and forgiveness. Should not this same consideration ...

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